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Hahnemann posts two shutouts, Reading has Sunday shot for promotion to Premier League.

Howard saves in tiebreaker lead Everton past Manchester United in FA Cup semifinals.

Howard saves in tiebreaker lead Everton past Manchester United in FA Cup semifinals.

Reading finally scores, but Hahnemann concedes lead in 2-2 draw with Blackpool.

Dempsey scores twice, adds assist to spark Fulham past Manchester City.

Edu scores first goal, Beasley injures rib in Rangers victory.

Friedel is sent off from Villa's 5-0 rout at hands of Liverpool.

Howard, Everton are on the upswing in English Premier League.

Bradley helps Gladbach mount effort to escape relegation.

Donovan to wrap up Munich tenure and rejoin Galaxy in MLS.

Healthy after long recovery, Spector is recording playing time with West Ham.

Foul tackle leaves Beasley bruised, but apparently not sidelined.

Bradley scores tying goal in Gladbach's 1-1 draw at Bremen.

McBride, Beasley stay put as transfer window closes.

McBride could return to Fulham of EPL, Altidore moves.

Friedel posts two shutouts for Aston Villa which defeats Portsmouth, ties Doncaster.

Beasley, Edu struggle for playing time for Glasgow Rangers.

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Americans Abroad

Hahnemann, Reading fall short of Premier League promotion, get second chance.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)

(Wednesday, May 6, 2009) -- A victory at home would have meant promotion to the English Premier League, but Reading dropped a 2-1 decision to Birmingham City Sunday and resultantly must win a four-team playoff if it wants to return to the Premier League for the 2009-10 season.

A late surge put Reading in position for automatic promotion, but with the loss to Birmingham, the Royals finished fourth in the second-tier League Championship at 21-11-14 with 77 points. Reading opens the two-match, aggregate-goals promotion playoffs semifinal series Saturday at Burnley before hosting the home leg Tuesday.

Facing Birmingham at Madejski Stadium, Reading fell behind by two goals as its defense faltered for the first time in weeks. In the 19th minute, Birmingham midfielder Keith Fahey hammered a ground-skimming shot which United States goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann got down on, but squirted through his hands to put the Blues ahead 1-0.

In the 60th minute, Kevin Phillips rattled a shot off a goalpost and in to give Birmingham a 2-0 advantage.

Reading reserve midfielder Marek Matejovsky pulled Reading to within 2-1 a minute later, but that was it for the home club.

Reading had not conceded a goal in its previous three outings.

Birmingham (23-9-14, 83 points) placed second and was automatically promoted along with first-place Wolverhampton Wanderers (27-10-9, 90). Sheffield United's 0-0 result at Crystal Palace left the door open for Reading to take second on goal differential, but as it was, United (22-10-14, 80) finished third.

United faces Preston North End in the other playoff semifinal.

Preston (21-14-11, 74) finished tied for sixth and the final playoff berth with Cardiff City (19-10-17), but North End advanced on total goals scored since goal differential was even.

Cardiff suffered a disheartening 1-0 loss Sunday at Sheffield Wednesday. U.S. striker Eddie Johnson was dressed, but did not play for Cardiff. American defender Frank Simek was also dressed, but did not play for Wednesday.

Watford finished the season on a high note defeating Derby County 3-1. U.S. defender Jay DeMerit went the distance for Watford, which finished the season at 16-20-10 with 58 points for 13th place, a decent finish given its slow start to the season.

With three matches remaining in the Premier League, Everton and Aston Villa, each with an American goalkeeper, continue to dual for fifth and sixth place. Both are assured of playing next season in the new Europa League, which replaces the UEFA Cup.

On Sunday, American Tim Howard was strong in net, earning a clean sheet for Everton, which defeated Sunderland 2-0. Howard's only difficult save was on a hard shot from Kieran Richardson in the 64th minute.

Brad Friedel had little to do until late for host Aston Villa Monday in a 1-0 triumph over Hull City.

Friedel had to be sharp to save a hard shot from Daniel Cousin in the 79th minute, a point-blank shot from Kamil Zayatte in the 83rd minute and a low header to a post from Cousin in stoppage time.

Villa (16-9-10, 58) leads Everton (15-9-11) by two points.

U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey went the distance for Fulham (12-12-11, 47), which fell 3-1 to Chelsea in the West London derby. Nicolas Anelka got Chelsea off to a good start by scoring in the first minute.

The loss ended any hope Fulham, which is in a three-way tie for eighth place, might have had on making it into European competition next season.

U.S. defender Jonathan Spector dressed, but did not play for West Ham United's 1-0 defeat of Stoke City.

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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